Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Howard Markman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Scott M. Stanley

Third Advisor

Stephen Shirk

Fourth Advisor

Kateri McRae

Fifth Advisor

Shelly Smith-Acuna


Couple relationship education, CRE, Internet intervention, Older adults, Online intervention, Prevention and Relationship Education Program


Healthy marriage has been associated with increased longevity and better health in later life. At the same time, many older couples will confront age-related stressors that may result in relationship distress, such as declining health, decisions about retirement, and caring for elderly parents and/or adult children. Yet empirical knowledge of relationship dynamics among older couples is limited, and there appears to have been little development, provision, or assessment of research-based relationship services for this population.

In the current study, 93 individuals representing 61 older-adult couples participated in a randomized, waitlist-controlled trial of an online version of the Prevention and Relationship Education Program (PREP). Participants completed questionnaires about their relationship and individual health prior to random assignment, and again one month later. Participants were randomly assigned (at the couple level) to receive access to the online intervention after either the first or second assessment.

Data from the baseline assessment were used to examine older-adult relationship dynamics. Among six relationship dynamics, only positive bonding and skillful communication had significant unique associations with overall relationship satisfaction. Only negative communication had a significant unique association with financial stress, and only positive bonding was significantly, uniquely associated with mental health, and only among men.

At the follow-up assessment, couples who had received access to the online intervention reported significantly greater recent use of skillful communication, on average, than couples assigned to wait-list. Gender moderated this effect, with only female participants reporting increased use of skillful communication following assignment to immediate intervention. Group differences in the secondary outcomes of relationship satisfaction, other relationship dynamics, and physical and mental health did not achieve significance. Intervention participants reported moderate-to-high benefit from and satisfaction with the online program.

In addition to suggesting avenues for research on older adult relationship dynamics, the relationship-science results can inform programming decisions for relationship interventions specifically targeting older adults. Results for the feasibility trial of Internet-based PREP with older adults suggest that online relationship education for this population is feasible, and likely should incorporate strategies for promoting male engagement. Impact was limited but encouraging, thus supporting further research of this nature using larger, longer-term, and more diverse samples of older couples.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Benjamin A. Loew

File size

97 p.

File format





Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Individual & Family Studies